‘Ice cream van fire left me devastated’

Carmela and Pietro Barbaro.
Carmela and Pietro Barbaro.
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The owner of an ice cream van that burst into flames in Ilkeston market place has spoken of her devastation at losing what she considered her second home.

Carmela Barbaro, 69, had just parked up at the top of Bath Street when the engine of the van, that she had owned for ten years, started smoking.

She said: “All of a sudden Paul across the road said he could see smoke. I said ‘what smoke?’ Then I could see smoke coming from the steering wheel. All of a sudden it got bigger and then everyone came to help.”

The blaze, on May 21, soon took hold and the van went up in flames with fire crews called to the scene.

Carmela, who has been working with husband Pietro , 72,in his ice cream van, said: “It blew up, I was devastated. I lost everything - my handbag, laptop, sat nav and money.”

The couple, who are originally from Italy, have been selling ice creams for 47 years and have been parking their van in Ilkeston for more than three decades. The ice cream van was Carmela’s pride and joy and belonged to her - it even had her name on it.

She said: “It’s just like it was my house. At least I’m alive but I’m devastated.”

She also praised market trader Andy Healey who tried to extinguish the blaze with fire extinguishers.

He said: “I used four extinguishers but even when I got on top of it the flames burst back up.

“Anyone would have done the same , it’s the girl’s livelihood. We are like a small family around here.”

His family Nickeila said: “I am very proud.”

The fire was caused by an electrical fault in the engine. The van is a write off and the couple will have to wait to see if they get replacement van through their insurance.

They are now using their second van, which is normally based in Long Eaton, to sell ice cream in Ilkeston on a Thursday.